tv Judicial Independence and Politics CSPAN July 4, 2014 5:59pm-7:01pm EDT
there was liberia. fromf those people came those states in the u.s.. >> explore the history and literary life of jackson this weekend on c-span twos look tv. -- book tv. >> next, a speakers include one of the orida judges involved in the 2000 bush have. gore case and an iowa judge who lost her job due to a ruling on same-sex marriage. this is co-hosted by the national association of women judges. it's an hour.
>> ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us and welcome to the national constitution center. i'm jeffrey rosen, the president of this wonderful institution, the national constitution center is the only institution in america chartered by dock congress to disemanate information about the u.s. constitution on a nonpartisan basis and to fulfill that inspiring goal, we have a series of programs we call ourselves america's town hall and we bring together the best voices from all sides of the spectrum to debate the constitutional issues in the center of american life. in the next few weeks we have a series of programs that i hope you'll join us for, including on june 20, david boies and ted
olson will come to discuss their new book about marriage equality. on june 26, we'll have a wonderful debate with our partners at intelligence squared about the constitutionality of restrictions on campaign finance reform. on june 16 we'll have discussion of the cell phone case that's the supreme court is about to decide and talk about the future of the fourth amendment with the two advocates who argued the cell phone cases before the court here at the constitution center. it's a wonderful series of events coming up, and i hope you'll join us both here at the center, online and on our website. i'm especially thrilled, ladies and gentlemen, to introduce today's program presented in partnership with the national association of women judges. this is a program near and dear to my heart. my friend, justice pa renty and i, more than a year ago at g.w. law school, where i teach and where you graduated from, talked about how wonderful it would be to bring together women judges who are defending
the idea of nonpartisanship and the rule of law, to talk about their concrete experiences with judicial elections, with the challenges of merit retention systems and to give you, the people, a direct insight into the real threats to judicial independence that are faced by judges today. you'll have an opportunity to learn more about the national association of women judges and about their inspiring goal. like ours, it is to be nonpartisan and to encourage votes for judges based on character, integrity, fairness, and a willingness to decide cases based on the law. we are also delighted to recognize mark robinson of the american board of trial advocates, who's a partner for today's program. please turn off your cell phones and prepare for a really engaging discussion. and now, let me introduce our esteemed and extremely impressive panelists.
former chief justice of the iowa supreme court. she currently practices law in des moines, iowa, focuses on appellate case consulting litigation. she was appointed to the iowa supreme court in 1993 by the governor and selected by her peers to serve as chief justice in 2006. her term on the court expired on december 31, 2010. and you will hear her striking story about the reaction to a decision that she issued in iowa and the consequences that it had in iowa. justice barbara has been a justice of the florida supreme court since 1997 and served as chief justice from 2004 to 2006. she's been involved in her time with the court with several notable cases, including the bush v. gore case from 2000, the michael schiavo case from 2004 and fascinating cases we've discussed involving
dogsmiths and searches and seizures. you've had sobering reactions to your decisions as well and we'll learn about them. finally, i'm absolutely honored to welcome to the national constitution center judge anna blackburn rigsby, who is the president of the national association of women judges. she was nominated by president george w. bush to the district of columbia court of appeals in 2006. she chairs the district of columbia's court standing committee on fairness and access. she's a commission ore the district's access to justice commission. and before her appointment she was nominated by president bill clinton to serve as an associate judge in the superior court of the district of columbia. this is quite a remarkable panel and i'd like you to join me in ksming them to the national constitution center. [applause] judge, we're going to begin with you. you had an extraordinary experience in iowa. you issued an opinion in a case involving iowa's defense of
marriage act. tell us about that case and your decision. >> well, our court had an appeal from 12 same-sex couples, 12 individuals, six same-sex couples, who had been denied a marriage license in iowa, based on iowa's version of the defense against marriage act. they challenged the constitutionality of that statute under the iowa constitution's equal protection clause. our court issued a unanimous decision that the statute did in fact violate the equality rights of these individuals. >> and describe the reaction to that decision. >> well, the case was controversial even before we issued our opinion. there was a lot of social commentary, a lot of public discussion of whether same-sex marriage should be allowed or not. and there were demonstrations outside of the judicial branch building when we heard oral arguments on the case. so we knew that our decision would be controversial.
and when we issued the decision, of course, it was very controversial. and there were a lot of groups who were opposed to our decision, primarily on religious grounds. >> some of those groups took out tv ads and we have videos of some of those ads now. >> right. the actual -- i think the opposition reached its crescendo when three members of our court happened to be on the retention ballot. in other words, we were up for retention. voters were asked to vote, yes, retain these judges, no, do not retain these judges, in the 2010 general election. and what you're about to see were ads that were created to campaign against our retention. >> let us see the ads.
traditional values and legislating from the bench. the opinion you serve as voters to redefine marriage, what will they do to other long-established iowa traditions and rights? three of three judges are now on the november ballot. send them a message. vote no to retain these supreme court justices. >> judge, i'm going to ask you in a moment what your reaction was. but first, let me ask, what was the result? did you keep your seat? >> we did not keep our seat. none of us were retained. only the second ad actually was on tv. the first video that you saw is, i think, about a two-minute video that was circulated within the religious community in iowa, which was kind of used as a grass-roots structure to organize no-vote on the retention ballot. >> and do you think that the ad was responsible for your defeat? >> i'm sure it contributed.
[laughter] you know, i don't know what single action they took resulted in our nonretention. but public opinion at the time, based on polling done by the "des moines register," showed at the majority of iowa yans opposed same-sex marriage. so they had a receptive audience in terms of whether people agreed with the decision or not, just on social grounds. >> how did you feel when you saw the ad? >> honestly, i -- the first ad i never saw until afterwards. i just didn't really want to watch them. i didn't even watch tv during that period of time, i'll admit. >> now, on the one hand, it is factually correct. it said that court ignored the will of the legislature and the people. but on the other hand, was that an appropriate ad to run on television? >> i think citizens can vote
for or against a judge for any reason they want, including because they disagree with an opinion. that's certainly how our democracy works. but i also think it's important for citizens to know when they are exercising their vote in that way, that there are consequences to voting judges out of office because they have issued an opinion that is contrary to public opinion. >> what are the consequences? >> well, it clearly sends a message to judges that in the future, they should hesitate to issue an opinion that may be correct under the law, that may be a decision, a result, that the law demands and yet, is unpopular. they're telling those judges to check the opinion polls on the issue and follow those, rather than following the law. and that's a very dangerous message to be sending. it was exactly the message intended by those who opposed our retention.
they said on their website, we intend to send a message across iowa and across the country that judges ignore the will of the people at their peril. and so it was a message of intimidation, and certainly the fact that we weren't retained, that voters bought into that, sent a message to judges by citizens. we want you to follow what we think the law ought to be, rather than what the law is. >> do you think that message has changed the way judges are deciding cases now? >> well, i think we're naive to think that it doesn't have an pact on judges, whether it's consciously thinking, gosh, if i make this decision i'm going to make this group mad or business big will come after me or whether it's subconscious in the back of their mind that they don't even realize is there. sure it has an impact, but it's not measurable. judges are human. i don't think as a citizen it's
comfortable with them having to worry about whether they're going to keep their job. it shouldn't be about the judge keeping his or her job, it should be about enforcing the constitutional rights that we value. >> what was unusual about your case? have there been previous examples where all three judges were voted out because of unpopular decisions? >> we never had a retention election that was controversial. in fact, i had two prior retention elections. this was my third. i think it was my first retention election when somebody came into my office the day after the election and asked me, well, how much of the vote did you get? and i had forgotten that i was on the ballot. that's how much they were just, you know, they were just not controversial. >> and remind the audience, the merit selection and retention system is a nonpartisan system, where you're selected because of your abilities and stellar credentials, not because of your politics.
>> a nonpartisan commission composed of lay persons and law-educated persons, licensed attorneys, interview applicants, and based on the applicant's professional qualifications, their integrity and character, choose the three most highly qualified individuals. and those names are then sent to an appointing authority in iowa, it's the governor. and the governor has 30 days to appoint the person -- appoint a new judge from among those three nominees. the intent is to take politics out of the appointment process. and then the retention election is a way to involve voters and give them an opportunity to remove judges. you know, mistakes can be made, and notwithstanding the merit-based commission system, if a judge proves unfit or becomes unfit, then they can be removed through the retention ballot. >> we'll talk more with all your colleagues about what has changed. but i want to know, what was unusual about this case?
was it the nature of the topic, the marriage equality, or the internet? why did it happen in iowa? >> well, i think it happened in iowa because of the issue. and i really think all the money that poured into iowa came in because it was a startling decision in the heartland. it was startling because it was unanimous. and the individuals who oppose same-sex marriage felt we have to stop this now. and the only way we're going to do it is to intimidate other judges in other states, so they won't do what the iowa supreme court did, and by removing us from office, that was the message they intended to send. obviously, you can see from the videos that the internet, youtube, media, all that made it easier for them to sell their message. >> now, many other courts have considered the same-sex marriage question since iowa, and it's my understanding that every court to consider the
issue has in fact since the supreme court's decision last year ruled in favor of marriage equality. did this campaign successfully intimidate other judges, or did they have selection systems that made them immune to those sort of pressures? >> i think most of the decision that is you're referring to are in federal courts, where they don't have to worry about whether they're going to be retained because they have lifetime appointments. >> so there really is a difference between the federal and state systems when it comes to judicial independence. >> i think the fact that federal judges do not think there will be retaliation against them for making a decision that's correct under the law, yet unpopular, certainly gives them some freedom to make those decisions without having to worry about their own career. and, yes, that's probably a significant difference. >> what is the solution to the experience that you underwent? what is a better s. appointing state court judges -- system in
appointing state court judges? >> i think before one discusses what is the best system for choosing judges or retaining judges, citizens need to ask themselves what kind of court they want. do they want a court that makes decisions under the law, that upholds the rule of law, or do they want a decision -- a court that makes decisions based on who's the most popular, who has the most money, who shouts the loudest? and so once you make that decision, whether you want a court that makes political decisions or makes judicial decisions based on the rule of law, then i think you look to a system that minimizes the opportunity for politics to get into the system. and i certainly think that a retention election, where it's a simple yorne vote versus running against -- yes or no vote, versus running against someone, minimizing the opportunity for politics to get into the system. but no system is immune from politics. there is no perfect system that
can guard against politics coming into judicial selection and retention. the only way that's going to stay out is for voters to demand that the systems remain nonpolitical. >> are voters likely to demand that? >> well, we're trying to educate them on the impact of their votes. the voters in iowa were sending a message to judges, we want you to behave like politicians. we want you to test the winds and go with public opinion. we don't care that it's correct under the law. or another big component, of course, in iowa was that we violated god's will by ruling the way we did. so the message there is, i guess, that i should have checked the bible or checked with my -- the priest in my church to ask how i should vote, rather than checking the iowa constitution and our long years of case law, which were
in fact consistent with our decision. >> and you've warned, in fact, that voters should not turn judges into theologians in robes or politicians in robes. >> i don't think they should. that's the voter's choice. they can turn judges into theologians in robes and politicians in robes. >> you now have the opportunity to speak and write about the importance of judicial independence. what do you tell voters when you're trying to persuade them not to turn judges into politicians in robes? >> well, i think that the rule of law is what distinguishes our democracy from other forms of government. and we have to be willing to up hold the rule of law, even when it upholds the rights of others, others whom we may disagree with. if the law doesn't protect everybody, if the law depends on who's standing in front of the judge, then we don't have neutral decision-making, we don't have fair and impartial
judges, and we cannot say we are a society governed by the rule of law. >> well said, judge. thank you very much for that. [applause] >> i want to turn to our next justice. you were on the panels that decided bush v. gore and the terry schiavo case. but it was a 2012 case involving an amendment to the affordable care act that your court rejected and got a lot of heat. what was the amendment, and what did you hold? >> first of all, i must say hat 2010, with what happened in iowa, was a bellwether year. and as you all may recall, the health care -- affordable health care act, obamacare, had
passed. and there was a lot of controversy about it. in our state we have a way of amending the state constitution by legislative initiative or state initiative. there had been an initiative to put on the ballot that would have voters say yes or no, we are for obamacare or against it. and that's their prerogative. the only issue that the florida supreme court deals with is whether the ballot summary is misleading. and in this case, the ballot summary had talked about that if you voted for this amendment, which was against amacare, you would eliminate waiting times for doctor's visits, that was essentially it. when it came before us, each side -- they both conceded it was misleading, but they wanted us to rewrite the ballot summary. the majority of us, five of us, said we didn't have that power.
the irony was by 2012 a new amendment had been proposed which had already been approved. but what happened was, my view is right after the iowa election and emboldened by that, we had immediate signs that there were three justices that were up for merit retention, myself and two of my colleagues, and that they were oing -- these groups, partisan groups, special interest groups, were going to run a campaign to take us out of office. and just like justice ternus, i had been on the court since 1998. i had gone through two prior and retention elections, as a supreme court justice, one as an appellate judge. i had been a lawyer -- well, i'm now 41 years out of c.w. o although we know each other,
weren't contemporaries, although i would have loved to be. the retention -- i know pennsylvania is not a retention state. the idea, as justice ternus said, was you are on the ballot, not that you did something wrong. it's not a recall. you're just on the ballot every six years, and the best we could tell is a check to see, as justice ternus said, if the judge has violated ethical standards or integrity or is not hardworking or is being olitical is a chance for the voters. the problem is that there's a low level of knowledge about why the judges are even on the ballot. because, again, in our federal system, what did the founding fathers do? to avoid judges being beholden to the will of the king, the will of those in power. so our election was not really about a single decision. it was about 16 years of just
saying we had ruled in ways that were against the mainstream, against popular opinion and that type of situation. so we didn't have a hot button issue. but nevertheless, we had a very igorous campaign to oppose the justices. we made a decision different than iowa, seeing what happened, is that the justices were not going to just let this happen. so we had ways to organize getting judges trying to educate the voters on what was at stake. and that continued over really a junior period. >> well, let's see the ad, which, as you said, raised several issues. >> this is a compilation of what ran. >> like a mixed tape of judicial attack. let's take a look.
>> we will try again for the volume. >> one more was a criminal case. >> on a day such as this, in a parking lot like this one, jean, 38 years old, was the ctim of two horrendous attacks. barbara par yent thai threw out the conviction, citing a never before realized legal technicality. they gave this unrepent ant killer another chance. >> when power is in the people and not -- >> where the rule of law still matters and the constitution
still means what it's always meant, not what some judge thinks it should be. >> imagine a world in which florida didn't have to compete with california, new york and massachusetts to have some of the most activist judges in america. >> no more justices playing politics. >> where they stand for freedom. >> it's our last hope. , patient rights and education. ll them to stop judicial activism.
>> america needs health care reform. but with the new health care reform, it gives washington more control over our health care. that's why many cases have voted against it. not florida. our own supreme court denied our right to choose for ourselves. shouldn't our courts protect our right to choose? you be the judge. get the facts and sign the etition. >> that's the last one. >> ok, wow. >> and what you see, and i think this is important for the viewers, is you hear some of the same buzzwords being used, judicial activism, legislating from the bench, being against property rights or different rights, the right to vote. and so these are these buzzwords that are meant to
affect citizens that somehow courts are acting in their own self-interest and against the interests of americans, of our citizens. and the last ad was paid for by americans for prosperity, which is the coke brother group. and others ran on the internet. and that has been a very successful tool, the social media. you asked about what's changed. 16 years ago social media was virtually nonexistent. social media is a very powerful tool now to get to constituencies that have that ability to get their message out. >> so describe the affect of these ads. the ads say people should call you and oppose political activism. how many people called you?
>> we learned that we didn't really want calls to our offices, but we ended up, in florida, not only having different groups opposing us, but by october, the republican party of florida had come out against us using a decision -- the first decision was called nixon vs. florida and it had to do with an issue of rights of -- constitutional rights to representation. but it had been a 2003 decision. we were now in 2012. so what we had was dredging up a case -- we didn't let somebody out of prison. the issue was they were going to get a new trial. and that was used as if -- you know, because this issue of being soft on crime, again as another theme, as opposed to protecting constitutional rights. in the end -- and i say the republican party. it would be just as bad if it
was the democratic party, coming out in a nonpartisan state for or against judges. that was the whole reason in our state that judges became nonpartisan. but what i believe what happened is with our ability to organize and get our message out to the citizens, we were overwhelmingly retained. in other words, our percentages were excellent, i believe, and it was excellent across all party lines that citizens properly informed did not want to transform the courts into a power-grab for one governor or one side or the other. they recognized separation of powers, checks and balances, everything the national constitution center wants to emphasize, they appreciated the judges cannot be intimidated in making a decision that is right on the facts and the law, but
may be wrong on the political or popularity poll of the day. >> this is the poss exciting and inspiring constitutional news i've heard this week. so tell us, how precisely were you able to launch a campaign in favor of political independence? >> we've heard a lot about campaign finance and campaign reform. it is a particularly problematic issue for the judiciary, because judges are not there to raise money. we are prohibited from raising money, at least in the state of florida, and i think in other merit-retention states. so committees have to form to assist you. those are going to be lawyers, lawyers that may appear before you. that's why we're so pleased to have the american board of trial advocates, which is a bipartisan, nonpartisan organization of lawyers understanding the threat. it's not about being for business, against business, for consumers, against consumers,
it's about judges who, when everyone comes into the courtroom, that they are going to get a judge who will look at the facts, look at the law and not look at who the litigants are and decide that case. o it was, i believe, a triumph for fair and i am partial courts. but as judge blackburn-rigsby will tell you, we're seeing this crop up across the country. >> how does it work? what are the mechanics -- do you do social media ads about the importance of this? >> well, in states like florida, if they were to run a state-wide ad for a week, it would cost $1 million. we didn't have anything close to that. also, we were prohibited from actually the three of us, the justices who were being attacked, we couldn't do ads own her because of our canons. so we did use effectively going
to editorial boards. we did use the social media. we had facebook. i was very upset when my facebook page came up and i didn't get a lot of likes, because i found out that actually in the social media world you have to actually drive people to those sites, and that costs money. we did have independent groups that did run ads for us. but i really don't know the mechanics of it. because under campaign laws, you can't coordinate with third-party groups. the idea of campaigning -- and i know there are states that have wonderful judges. but the idea for judges campaigning, it's really contrary to what we are about. just like justice ternus said, she didn't want to see those ads running against us. you know, it's not like we're in an ivory tower, but we want to be insulated from what you see on tv, what the public
opinion poll is of the day, because public opinion changes. i'll bet if justice ternus had that decision today, the public opinion could be different. -- an't make a decision brown v. board of education would never have been decided if it was based on popular opinion, certainly not in the south. >> you've been part of some of the most controversial cases in your state court. has something changed? is the poll larization worse or oes your inspiring counterbalancing help? >> it's going to take all of us. there are over 300 million americans. in florida we have 16 million floridians. we can't do it alone. what's unique about what we're doing as judges and former judges speaking out about it, because it's one thing for lawyers speak out. no offense, law professors. >> i'm on leave right now,
sabbatical, so -- >> but to understand -- i mean, i grew up at a time, i believed in the constitution and constitutional rights. and to believe that you can make a decision that was fair based on the constitution, protecting not the rights of the majority, because you look at james madison, he said, no, the judicial branch exists to protect the rights of the minority. not minorities, but someone who may have unpopular views on speech. flag burning, a terribly offensive subject. and so if judges feel that they have to put their finger up to the wind to make this decision, as justice ternus said, it has a terribly intimidating effect. right after our election there was a pension case, and we ruled -- the majority ruled that the pension law that had been passed by the legislature was constitutional. that did not make teachers happy or unions.
so next thing we see, well, the unions are saying, who are those people? we're going to vote against them next time. so that's not a good thing. so i guess the answer is, we've got to keep on -- we've got to continue the conversation and realize that if we want to celebrate the rule of law and what's great about our country, we've got to protect our judges from politics. >> that deserves a round of applause as well. [applause] just one more question before i turn to judge blackburn-rigsby. when we met i saw you at a public panel and you were asked the obvious question -- wasn't your court being political in bush v. gore? and you had quite a powerful response to that. >> yes, i did. what i said was the message from our court was, every vote should count. we weren't dictating a particular result, and that we had many opportunities, during the six weeks of litigation, to come up with a decision.
because there was only 600 votes that separated bush from gore, to come up with decisions that would have given the election to gore. how would we come up with it if we were saying there should be votes wide recount where undeniably had been recountsed where we felt there should be. so the majority of us felt that we were vindicating the best tradition that every vote counts. so, no, i to this day will defend what our court did as being consistent with the precedent of the court and of the states who make sure that elections are conducted fairly. and i think at that point we were discussing whether it was the supreme court attacked politically or our court. that's what's not good, for someone to say, well, we like
your decision because we wanted gore. we didn't like your decision because we wanted bush. that wasn't what was at stake. so i would defend very much what the florida supreme court did in 2000. >> great, thank you so much for all that. judge blackburn-rigsby, you are the president of the national association of women judges, and thank you, first of all, for your leadership of this wonderful organization. > thank you. >> a round of applause for that, sure. i think all of us are persuaded by the crucial function you serve. so the experience of these two justices is not unique. across the country from kansas to north carolina, washington, texas and most recently oklahoma, there have been a series of high-profile attacks on judges. describe some of those attacks. tell us about what's going on in oklahoma, for example. >> well, i first have to say that the fact that we're having this discussion here at the national constitution center is
so important and that we have so many people here engaged in this conversation with us, because one of the issues of concern and one of the reasons why the national association of women judges cares about this issue so deeply is that the independence of our judiciary, the fact that we have fair open courts that are supposed to dispense justice and ensure access to justice for all is a cornerstone of our democracy. the design was that we would have three independent branches of government that had specific and important functions. overly we begin to politicize the judicial branch, which traditionally was the branch that was supposed to be one that had the -- more ability to make decisions based on case-by-case determinations of the law and the facts, when
you blur those lines with the legislative branch, where the legislature is elected by popular support of the constituents and they have a constituency to report to, you begin to blur the roles and the functions. one of the examples you've heard about, iowa and florida. recently in the news we heard their klahoma, where gh court voted to stay initially execution there until they could get a little more information about the lethal injection manufacturer, because there were some concerns. and there was a public outcry and threats to impeach those justices who voted to stay the execution. the decision was changed or reversed or modified, and the execution went forward. and many of you heard the stories of the excruciating nature of the particular
execution because the lethal injection was flawed in some way. and we think about our eighth amendment that we should not have cruel and unusual punishment. and the manner in which the execution was carried out, i think, met, unfortunately, that standard. but that's just one example. there are examples in other parts of the country, and i think where the national association of women judges comes in, we are an organization of women judges at all levels of the judiciary, and we have male judges, colleagues who are members, members of the bar, who are in all 50 states. trial, appellate, administrative, military judges, indian tribunal judges. the important thing is, a lot of people just don't know a lot about the judiciary and what judges do every day. until one of our loved ones, family members, friends, has to go into a courthouse and that
is a part of the problem. and i think what justice ternus and justice pariente have talked about and what justices and lawyers in the community need to do is talk like this. so a judges project is a civic education program of the national association of women judges, to do just that. we go into communities all across the country and talk about why fair and i am partial courts are important to you, not just important to the judge. and judicial independence, an independent and fair judiciary, it's not about the judge, it is about the community, it's about the people and about our democracy. and so we've collaborated with many organizations, like the national constitution center, local civic groups. it's a nonpartisan, nonpolitical effort, just to talk about what you should look for in a judge. you know, when you go into a
courthouse with your elderly parent and you have a will, probate dispute, you should expect the judge will look at the facts of your case and not that a judge has a preconceived notion or agenda about how this kind of case or this kind of litigant should be treated. and sometimes when you have influences from outside the jurisdiction coming in that signal to a judge, if you don't do this, in this way, you better watch out, i think that that affects the rule of law. i don't know, i just will share a story. justice pariente and i participated in a global judicial conference involving women judges from all over the world. 500 different countries. and i tell you that they, in many ways, look to our system, where the judiciary is fair and
independent, or conceived of to be that way, because there are pressures that come to bear in other systems. and i just hope that americans continue to value our democracy and the way that the judicial branch -- the role that we serve. it doesn't mean that judges are above criticism, because there are mechanisms for judges to be reviewed and disciplined if they act in an unethical or illegal way. but the -- to attack a particular decision outside of the court or appellate process, i think raises some of the concerns that we've talked about here. >> how are these impeachment efforts succeeding? in the federal system there's a precedence dating back to the failed impeachment of justice chase that you can't impeach federal judges for their opinions, but only for criminal
or high misconduct. are some state court judges being impeached because of the substance of their decision? >> i haven't heard of actual impeachments being carried out recently. we had the threat in oklahoma. but you're right to look at the language and our constitution -- and we're at the constitution center. there were very limited circumstances under which a federal judge could be impeached for a particular decision. i think certain high crimes and misdemeanors and other extraordinary acts that cut against the moral character, add hearns to the -- adherence to the law or adherence to the code of judicial conduct. not for deciding this way or that way in a particular case that came before the court. that's why we have appellate rights for parties to appeal decisions that they disagree with. that's why we have a high
supreme court, to ultimately resolve differences like that. we have a process. and i'll tell you, in the district of columbia we have an extremely busy trial court. thousands of people walk through the doors of the courthouse every day that look like every one of us. and what amazes me and what gives me hope and why i love doing what i do is that they expect that the system will work. everybody's not happy and sometimes no one's happy when they leave. but they do expect the system to work. and all we have to do is look at the media around the globe in parts of the world that are in extreme conflict, where there's no expectation that they can go to a courthouse and get a resolution that will be fair and impartial through a process that they have confidence in. and what we're talking about are attacks on the bedrock principles of our democracy that the judicial branch should be fair and impartial and
independent. >> in the few minutes we have left, i'd like all of your ideas about what reforms can take place to insurance judicial independence. judge blackburne-rigsby, is the national association of women judges focused on the role of money in these campaigns? we've heard about the funding for these attack ads and the supreme court has upheld restrictions on funding of judicial elections to avoid corruption. is that an issue? >> well, the national association of women judges have taken a broader approach. we view our role as one to educate the community, civic education about, the role of judges, the role of the courts and how the process works, because there are different ways that judges are selected. some that you've heard of here. some are appointed. but whatever ways the judges are elected in your local jurisdictions, we need the community to understand that and to care and to understand
why it matters to each individual person. and so our informed voters roject, ivp .nawj.org, we have a fantastic website with tools really engaging, not written like our judicial decisions. they're written in very understandable common parlance so that high school students, college students, civic groups can go to the website and download materials about what a retention election is, what qualities are important for a judge to be fair, to be educate beside the law, to be impartial, to be neutral. and those materials are available to the public. we partnered with civic groups and bar associations. we have over 25 different partners with us in a grass-roots effort to make our courts more open and accessible and understandable so that
people understand the true jewel that our judicial system and our system of government offers. i used to have civics class and many of you in the audience may remember in elementary and middle school we had civics class. and my son's in boy scouts. they learn these things and we have to make people understand why they're important. when you're standing in front of a court with your loved one, no matter what kind of dispute it is, as justice ternus and justice pariente have said, what do you want the judge to be thinking? what is the paper going to say tomorrow if i do this? or do you want them focused on the facts and the law and really bringing an open and fair mind to the resolution of your case? >> i would say just on the issue of campaign finance, the u.s. supreme court decisions were in the context of the legislative and executive
branch. i know that justice o'connor, who is a supporter -- a great supporter of civics education, has come out saying she's very concerned about the state of campaign and big money coming -- the corrupting effect. we must, i think, look at -- and i'd encourage a broader conversation about how judicial races are financed, as well as public financing and the studies that show certain troubling facts. i think that must be addressed. as citizens look at what is happening in their state, they ought to be informed about the process by which judges are selected and see if that process encourages politics or discourages it. and if it discourages it, then it should remain. they should look at legislative attempts to change the way judges are selected, which is happening in many states.
our judicial nominating commission is not as nonpartisan as it was 15 years ago. i think that is -- that's a mistake. but we can't sit here and say, well, if you're from a partisan state where, like in texas, judges are elected still as democrats and republicans, we're not going to say today, well, we think that system is going to encourage politics. i would let the citizens and voters think, well, if you're running as a democrat or republican, doesn't that sound political? the only thing i would love to do, because i know we started a ittle late, but it's also live stream, if we can show the justice o'connor video. do we have time for that? >> we certainly have time. it's a great video. i want to give justice ternus the last word and then we will watch this wonderful video, which has been nominated for an
emmy. justice, you've heard this, you've heard our discussion. we talked about three different methods of judicial election, the merit selection and retention, partisan election and judge rigby's system of a term of years with nomination -- with the advice and consents of the house and senate. what other reforms would you suggest could help avoid a kind of threats to judicial independence that you've experienced? >> well, i think the voters, the citizens, have to decide, as i said earlier, what kind of court they want, and then look at the selection system they have in their state and ask themselves, does this selection process promote the kind of court that i want or not? but even beyond the kind of system that you have, because any system can be politicized. and i think systems can be unpoliticized. i think citizens today have to
do what americans did here in philadelphia 250 years ago. i don't have the math right in front of me. but, you know, we need to understand that we have to have as much of a commitment to democracy and the rule of law as our founding fathers did, or we will lose it. and so i think the main message that i would like to convey to you and that i hope that you would convey to people in the coffee shop and over the thanksgiving dinner table with your relatives, is that democracy has to be protected. and we have to commit ourselves to a fair and impartial jure year, or we will lose it -- judiciary, or we will lose it, and that is what is happening now if we don't do something about it. [applause] >> each of you is just knocking it out of the park. this is really inspiring. and we are about to hear this
great video, nominated for an emmy, featuring our wonderful board member and the leader of civics education and the defense of judicial independence in america, justice sandra day o'connor. >> who is a member of the national association of women judges. >> forgive me. >> and has done this in conjunction with our informed project. r judges >> thank you. let's listen to the video. >> life isn't always fair. but all of us want to be treated with fairness. it seems we were born that way. before we can read or write, we know what fair feels like. >> we know what that feels like. we've heard people say, that's
not fair. the first lesson we learn at home and at school is how to be fair. everyone gets a turn. don't cut in line. share what you have. it seems so simple. even though we all want fairness, we don't always agree on what's fair and what isn't. fairness is treating others the way you want them to treat you and knowing they will teeth you the same way. it's playing by the rules, even when you don't win, because the same rules apply to everyone. life may not be fair, but the rules you live by must be. >> in america, fairness is the foundation of our lives. but you won't find the word fair or fairness anywhere in our bill of rights and constitution. there's a reason why you won't. our founding fathers and mothers defined what was fair
in every situation, that they created one branch of whose one a branch and only job is to decide what's fair is the judicial branch, our nation's courts and judges, judges who don't represent one group, judges who don't make decisions based on their personal opinion. partial judges free from pressure and influence of special interest groups. judges don't bend the rules. judges who don't bend to ressure. judges stand for one thing and only one thing, fairness. nobody ever went to a game and watched the referee, but it can't be a fair conflict without one. it is making hard and fair calls and fairness has never
been a popularity contest, and doing what's right -- throughout america, americans look to the court for fairness. they hope the judge will handle heir case with an even hand. they believe that all of us are entitled to the same laws, guaranteed by fair and mpartial judges. in our courts all men are created equal. we believe firmly in the integrity of our courts. that is the living and working reality. "to kill a rds from mockingbird". i have seen that reality.
i've worked alongside judges and justices dedicated to defending the integrity of our courts, even-handed judges committed to doing justice for ll, impartial judges who stand outside of politics, free from the influences of special interests or particular groups, because when a judge does what is right according to the law, when a judge decides each case strictly on the merits, when a judge gives every case and every person the same will nt, our courts always be fair and free. >> america's courts are fair. help keep them that way with an informed vote.
[applause] >> wow, ladies and gentlemen, there are many inspiring moments at the national constitution center but i can think of few more meaningful than this great partnership with the national association of women judges, a fellow institution dedicated to this crucial ideal of nonpartisan justice. and for me, the takeaway from this superbly eliminating discussion is that you have a role to play in this conversation. it makes a difference whether in communities and across the nations there are conversations about the importance of judicial independence. it can make the difference between fair and principled judicial system and one in independence ed reins. please join me in thanking these three distinguished judges for their service to our country. [applause]
captioned by the national captioning institute --www.ncicap.org-- can >> tonight, two events on guns and law enforcement. policenew york city commissioner bill bratton on modern police technique followed by gary gifford and her husband. the former congresswoman talks about her recovery from a gun shop -- gunshot to the head. that is followed by speakers at the grassroots of north carolina dinner, advocating for laws advocating wider use of firearms. here's a portion of her remarks. >>